|Open Forum on Local Government|
The Society's Vice-Chairman, Mike Tole, was our anchor man at the Open Forum on Thursday 19th March. Unflinchingly he faced any question from the floor, incorporating them into his own profoundly thought provoking comments on such themes as the Birmingham Northern Relief Road (vulnerable to a General Election, on the wrong route and making things worse), the Lichfield Local Plan (now dependent on a district-wide plan) - "Lichfield is very much a special case, almost a work of art that shouldn't be tampered with - the Local Plan could lead to rolling growth promoting more rolling growth until we had a population of 50,000 - a progression very difficult to stop once started".
We had a big debate on the dirty state of the City shopping centre where greedy landlords seemed to be at the root of the problem, especially absentee landlords who were unwilling to 'meet the market' despite the severity of the recession and thus insisted on draconian increases in rents. So strong was the feeling of the meeting that the following resolution was proposed and passed:
"Lichfield Civic Society supports the Lichfield Chamber of Commerce in their endeavours to ensure that business rental levels are reasonable, otherwise current trends suggest that commercial and retail life may cease to be viable in the City Centre to the detriment of the community as a whole".
The real gem of the evening came from Mike - as a member of the "Sand and Gravel Board" he monitors this necessary, though perhaps unexciting, commodity during meetings held in London. Unexciting? Mike told us that the Trent Valley area has 75% of England's sand and gravel resources; that when these are eventually excavated they could cover Berkshire to a depth of 6 ft and that there will be a series of lakes in southern Staffordshire equivalent to Lake Windermere.
Otherwise we talked of the Poll Tax, a National Police Force, the abolition of the Staffordshire County Council, traffic islands, litter, road calming, the loss of a sense of community and much else.
Our thanks go to Mike for holding the fort with such skill and unfailing wisdom; this was yet another unmissable meeting.